We’re all aware that last year was an especially one for air travel in terms of flight disruptions, which could be blamed on any combination of factors, ranging from extreme weather events to a wave of revenge travelers taking to the skies amid airline staffing and equipment shortages.
The U.S. Bureau of Transportations Statistics’ (BTS) official data revealed that flight cancellations reached 2.8 percent in 2022—almost 50 percent higher than historical annual averages. And, that’s not even including the now-infamous Southwest holiday meltdown.
While the unpredictable nature of flight disruptions can make them difficult to avoid, even with careful planning, Going.com (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) has some advice on how to best hedge your bets. It posits that there are two types of flights you should lean toward booking for those trips where you really need to arrive on time.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) publishes Air Travel Consumer Reports on monthly basis, containing statistics on the aviation sector’s flight cancellations and delays, including a detailed analysis by departure time.
Its data shows that 86 percent of flights departing from 6:00 a.m.–7:00 a.m. arrived on time, while only 66 percent of those scheduled from 10:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m. could say the same. So, basically, the first flights of any given day boast 20 percent higher on-time performance rates than the last flights of the day.
Going.com opines that there are two reasons for this. First, weather conditions tend to be better in the morning, with fewer thunderstorms. But, the biggest reason is that your plane has been parked at the airport overnight, rather than having to arrive on time from elsewhere at the completion of a previous route.
Flight delays are far more common than cancellations, with 19 percent of U.S. flights having been delayed over the past five years (excluding 2020, when the pandemic essentially shut down air travel), while only two percent of flights were all-out canceled.
This one-in-five chance of being delayed is noteworthy because, while delays on a nonstop departure are inconvenient and potentially frustrating, they can completely derail a flight that includes connections.
If delayed by an hour or two, a nonstop flight will still arrive at its destination, albeit later than planned. But, if the first leg of a connecting flight gets delayed, it means you may miss your connection completely and get stuck at the connecting airport until the next available flight. Sometimes, this means waiting in limbo until the next day or even longer to board the next leg of your flight.
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